Toby's Story

I was living in America. My family emigrated over there from the UK in 1999, so I am British. I was arrested in June 2007 at the age of 18, and I was ultimately charged with felony possession of a firearm, which is a federal crime, so I served almost 9 years on the sentence. I found out about Prisoners Abroad from the Embassy, who come to visit you wherever you are. Hearing more and more about them from other people who received the newsletters and received birthday cards, and even the newspapers from England; so seeing this and hearing such good feedback really encouraged me to eventually sign up. Finding housing in London or even in Greater London is extremely difficult, and it is for a lot of people, and for a while I was kind of stuck. But Adrian wrote me a referral letter to the Bexley Council and since then I have a one bedroom flat in New Elton which is really nice, and (at this point in my life) I couldn’t be happier really. 

Without that referral letter, and without the support and the guidance, it wouldn’t have happened, it completely wouldn’t have happened. All the work that the different case workers do, and all the staff at Prisoners Abroad do, is really encouraging and it’s really inspiring. I would like to be someone like them helping other people, because it can be very difficult, I can’t imagine myself or other people coming back and not having any support, or not having the level of support that we received, it would have been very difficult. And I understand how a lot of people fall back into whatever patterns of behaviour that led them to prison in the first place which is a disaster.

You know, when you’re in prison, you learn to have a barrier up, you learn to close everyone else out, and you’re protecting yourself from potential harm or anything negative, so you know, being in an environment that is more like a family, more like a community, it allows you to be human again, and be accepted for just being you, trying to get on the right path and try to rebuild your life which is absolutely essential.